kindness activist

kindness activist

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Look Up

Life lessons sometimes come in tiny pieces.

Today I learned – don’t look down, look UP.

The past couple of days I have been sad, really missing my sissy Annette.  My other sister, Sherry, and I really felt like we got a couple of “messages from the great beyond” from Annette when Sher and I were together recently in DC.  But after Sherry went back home, I felt alone.  No sisters, no messages. 

So, I decided that there HAD to be a message, I was just MISSING it.  The universe didn’t want me to be sad, I reasoned, I just need to FIND THE MESSAGE.  And (because I am apparently the controller of all things coming from the great beyond…) I decided that the message would be in the form of a painted rock. 

So, I walked around for a few days with my head down – looking at rocks.  I turned rocks over (“Surely the OTHER side is painted!” I would think.  Then flip the rock.  Only to be disappointed twice – by the same dumb rock.)  As I continued to hunt, I quickly grew frustrated.  Almost no one in my area paints and hides rocks.  “Maybe this Spring I will find her message on a rock…” I thought, then quickly counted an imaginary calendar in my brain and realized how far away Spring is.  Sigh. 

Only, you see, that’s not how messages WORK.  You can’t WILL them to appear.  You can’t wish and hope and squeeze your forehead so tight in concentration that BAM – the message is there.

Instead you have to open your heart.  Your soul.  And your EYES.

Today I spent the day playing tourist in my own city.  I had a fabulous day.  It was very warm out and I walked and walked and walked.  I treated myself to several outdoor sculpture gardens.  I breathed in the sunshine.  And I took a stroll around the Hirshhorn, a fantastic art museum in DC.  I looked at the current exhibits listed on a sign and set my sights on seeing the Marcel Duchamp work.  I don’t know why I picked that one, I have no particular affection for Duchamp.  But I moseyed around the museum looking for that exhibit. 

And right before I found what I was hunting for, I looked up to see this – a painting by Alberto Giacometti. 

My Message
I examined it.  I enjoyed it.  Then I looked at the plaque to read about it.

"Annette", by Alberto Giacometti 
The painting’s name is ANNETTE.


There it was – my message.  She was there.  She was smiling.  And of course, I smiled too.  And when I told my sister Sherry about my message and showed her the photos, she pointed out that not only was the painting the same NAME as our sister, it was painted the SAME YEAR OF HER BIRTH, 1961!!

I spent the rest of the day looking up.  Rocks were under my feet, and maybe I passed a message or 2 painted on them and didn’t see, who knows.  But I had gotten my message.  In fact, I got a second one when I looked up to double-check my item on a menu board and realized the café I had chosen to eat at today was called “The 3 Sisters”.

Today’s life lesson seems easy but was tough to figure out.  LOOK UP.  You can’t “will” things your way, but if your eyes are pointed the right direction, you won’t miss the messages.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

One Gift of Kindness

My sister Annette always told me about an annual Christmas event that she loved to help with.  It was a gift giveaway at the Sienna Francis House, a homeless shelter in Omaha, Nebraska.  Her friend Kristi works there and Annette had gone to help out at the Christmas event a few years.

Well, Annette died last week.  And at her Celebration of Life service, her friend Kristi mentioned that the shelter’s Christmas event was the next day.  “Sign me up,” I said.  I knew that the event was something I would be inspired by, and more than that, I felt a “duty” to take the volunteer spot left vacant by my sister’s passing.

When I got to the shelter I was assigned the job of NUMBER CALLER.  Each guest would come in, fill out a form listing their name and age, and if they had children under 12 years old, the kids’ names and ages.  Then each guest would be assigned a NUMBER.  I was in charge of sort of managing the traffic flow by hollering, “Numbers 1, 2, and 3 please!!”.  When those 3 guests came up, I would wish them a Merry Christmas and show them where to go to find cookies and someone to help them pick out a gift.  Then a few minutes later, “Numbers 4, 5, and 6 please!”. 

Then gifts were all donated and wrapped by a local church.  Members from the church were there to help the guests pick out a gift.  There was a big poster listing the possible gift choices.  For men, things like wallets, long underwear, sweatshirts, cologne, socks, pants, watches, etc.  For women the same types of things.  All gifts were wrapped and placed on tables by category and size, if necessary.  It was very well organized.

The guests ate dinner and were surprised by Santa and Mrs. Claus!  Mrs. Claus gave each person a Christmas ornament to bring over to the gift giveaway (the ornaments served as a type of ticket for entry).  So as soon as the first people finished dinner, our CHRISTMAS GUESTS BEGAN TO ARRIVE!

Women came first.   It was nice to see them arrive for this special event.  There was such a diverse group of women – old, young, African American, white, big, little…  And they all seemed very happy to have this special night.  One woman showed me the gift she had picked out for her 4 month old child – a very sweet little stuffed puppy toy. 

Then came the men.  Again, such a diverse group of people!!  There were several in wheelchairs or using walkers.  Young, old, clean, messy.  There were 3 or 4 Deaf guests and one in particular was very excited to have a volunteer who could communicate with him in ASL!  It was super fun to be able to chat with him and also be able to interpret and facilitate his communication in choosing the perfect gift!!

In this time of excess, this event really made me think.  Each guest received ONE GIFT.  One very practical gift, things they needed and could really use.  And that ONE GIFT made many of them smile so big.  They were surprised and delighted that this Christmas would bring them ANYTHING.  Many had a hard time choosing…  When you have to make a decision between a backpack or long underwear, that is a hard choice to make.  There was one table of little things that anyone could take, an extra small gift as it were.  The 2 people I watched go through both had their eyes light up when they saw little manicure sets – nail clippers, nail scissors, etc.  They were so excited to get those!!!  One man exclaimed, “I AM GOING TO TRIM MY BEARD!!”. 

So, this week, as you are fretting over whether you have bought enough gifts for your children or if the sweater and necklace for your mom will be enough, take time to pause and be grateful. 
There are people in this country who have NOTHING.  And then there are the lucky 278
guests at Sienna Francis House who now have their very own gift (and maybe even a nail
clipper) and are pleased as punch.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Roses, Botas, and MUCH MORE (Kindness Yard Sale Update)

I am pleased to report that more of the money raised at the Kindness Yard Sale has been used to spread kindness!!  Here is an update:

-          $7.99 was used to buy roses.  But not just ANY roses, special roses for a man in hospice to give his wife.  We know them just as the “puzzle couple”, because we always see them sitting at a table in the common room at the hospice putting puzzles together.  They saw us working on another project that I am going to use Kindness Yard Sale money for (I have not done it yet…) and asked what we were doing.  I explained it had to do with roses, and the woman smiled.  The man said that he didn’t want any flowers, thank you very much.  So, I said, “Well, what if I gave you a flower for you to give to your WIFE???”.  That idea seemed to make him happy!  His wife looked at me and deadpanned, “Well, if that happened, it would be the THIRD time in 51 years he gave me flowers!  The first time was when our first child was born.  I stayed in the hospital for 2 days and when he came to pick me up the flowers were dying.  He said they were a WASTE OF MONEY!  So, for the next baby, he bought me a PLANT.  He only gave me flowers one other time, for a Valentine’s Day”.  They are a very sweet couple and I knew it would make her happy to get flowers from her sweetheart one more time, so I picked up these roses.  I had him write her a note and tied it to the flowers.  He told me to leave them on the puzzle table where she would be sure to see them.  She was excited to be treated (and he seemed proud to be able to spoil her a bit, I am sure she is the one usually doing all of the caretaking since HE is the patient).

3rd time's a charm - 3rd time to give his wife flowers in 51 years

-          $42.09 was spent on boots, 2 hats, 1 pair of mittens and 1 pair of gloves.  This kind act was actually hard to pull off!!!  I am living in Omaha temporarily and it is very cold.  There has already been ice and snow.  I decided that I really wanted to use some of the kindness money to outfit a child for winter – coat, hat, snow pants, boots, whatever they needed!   With most of the other kind acts in this project, I have tried to not make them “need based” – because everyone loves to receive kindness, no matter if they NEED it or not!!  But for this particular one, I really hoped to find someone who NEEDED respite from the cold temperatures. 

      So, I headed to Walmart to try and find someone shopping for a coat.  But even though I strolled around and around that store for an hour, NO ONE was shopping for coats!  No one in the men’s, women’s, kid’s or baby sections!  I tried again another night at a different Walmart.  Then again at a Target.  Then a 3rd Walmart!  I told my sister that apparently EVERYONE in Omaha already has a coat, because no one seemed to be shopping for them!!  But one night I finally found two little someones one that needed warmth.  

      A man, woman, and two little girls were walking through Walmart.  They were speaking Spanish and I saw them looking at warm work gloves for the father.  I noticed that both little girls had on old, dirty coats, but no hats.  In fact, the smallest girl was BAREFOOT. 

It was a freezing cold night, and this little child had naked, dirty feet.  It made me so sad. But             those little girls were not sad!  Quite the opposite, they were having a very fun time out 
shopping with their parents.  They giggled and ran and played while their parents shopped.

I wasn’t quite sure how to ask if I could buy the kids hats.  It wasn’t only the linguistic barrier – I wanted to make sure the parents felt RESPECTED and not pitied.  I picked up a couple warm hats that I thought the little girls might like.  One came with a pair of gloves, and I grabbed a matching set of mittens to go with the other hat.  Then I found some courage and went over to the family.  I only have rudimentary Spanish, so I could not really ask them properly if it would be ok for me to buy them the hats and mittens.  But I asked in English and a bit of broken Spanish, then gestured a lot and showed them the items.  The little girls’ eyes lit up!  They look at their mother for permission, and she smiled at me and nodded “yes”.  I told them (gestured…) to stay where they were and I would go buy the items and bring them back to them.  Which is exactly what happened!  I bought them, found the girls, and sat down with them right there in that Walmart aisle to take all of the tags off of their new stuff!  They put those hats and mittens/gloves right on and gave me 2 very big smiles!  It was beautiful!!

Pretty PINK winter wear

But that left the more obvious problem to deal with – the tiny barefoot girl…  She needed boots for winter, but I didn’t want to make her parents feel bad for bringing her out in public with no shoes on.  But I decided I couldn’t ignore it, and gestured to her feet and asked, “Boots??  Yes??”.  The mother smiled again and nodded, and I gestured to the girls to FOLLOW ME!!  The 3 of us marched Pied Piper-like to the shoe department.  They were all smiles and big eyes.  I asked the mom which size and we narrowed down our search to that size.  I started with SHINY PINK ones, which the little girl seemed happy with.  But I didn’t want her to take the 1st pair I put in front of her – I wanted HER to pick her new boots!!  Eventually she spied these tan Ugg-style boots and pointed to them.  She and I sat down on the floor again and I put her dirty, naked little feet into those soft boots.  She smiled and modeled them.  Then we repeated the routine – they wait, I buy, I return.  I told the mom I knew the word “zapatas” for “shoes” in Spanish, but what was the word for “boots”?  “BOTAS!” the mom and girls gleefully told me!!!

As I finished my shopping I saw my new friends giggling in an aisle, new botas and all.

 -  $5 was left on a bathroom wall!!  I met a friend for brunch at a hip Denver restaurant called “The Corner Office”.  After dining on delicious red velvet waffles, I excused myself to go to the restroom.  There I found this great wall full of colorful sticky notes, and extra sticky paper and pens to leave your own note!  Perfect!  So, I hung this:  I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall when someone found it and seen what they decided to use it for.

FUN bathroom!

I wonder who found it...
   -  $51.04 was used to help make an immigrant’s Christmas more joyful.  My sister is living in a hospice house, and the cleaner there named Angelique is a sweet, elderly African woman.  She doesn’t speak much English, but always has a nice smile.  One day I figured out from the accent she has when she speaks English that perhaps FRENCH is her native tongue.  I called my sweetheart (who is fluent in French) and he played on-phone translator for me and Angelique!  She was so excited when he spoke French to her! 
She is from Congo and has no family here.  She told me, “You are my family”.  She does not interact much with the other staff or guests here that I see, and I imagine she may be quite lonely in America by herself.  So, I got a $50 gift card to Walmart and a nice card to surprise her!  Walmart is very near the hospice house and I bet she shops there sometimes.  I hope her holiday season is a little bit brighter because of this kindness.

A sweet gift for a sweet woman
- $5 was used to “help kids that don’t have moms and dads”.  My friend Tanya has two adorable little boys, and one of them, Sam, posted a plea video on Facebook. 

I mean, after seeing THAT, how could I NOT share some of the kindness money with him??  He was doing a super kind thing of HIS OWN!!!  Sam surpassed his monetary goal and is well on his way to being an amazingly kind human.    

-          $20 was donated to help a woman rebuild her café after everything for it was stolen.  Her name is Sandra Rivers and she is a CODA, child of Deaf adults.  She had a dream to build a café where Deaf people could socialize and there would not be linguistic barriers.  Her own parents have died, but she wanted to build “Deaf Delight” for other Deaf people.  Just 3 days before her insurance for the business started, she was robbed of everything.  She has not given up her dream, but she used her life savings to buy the equipment that was stolen, so is hoping to fundraise money to start over. 

-          $5 was used to purchase then donate a handmade bead that will be used in the “Beads of Courage” program.  I had never heard of the organization before but they had a booth set up at an art event that we went to and they sound amazing!  Participating hospitals give each child who has to undergo procedures (pokes and sticks) a handmade bead for each procedure!  Kids who have very serious illnesses have looong strings of beads!  The children can play with them, wear them, or just use them as a symbol of comfort and strength for all they have been through.   See more about this unique program here:  Beads of Courage website

-          And finally for this report, $41.07 was used to “Be a Santa to a Senior”.  A grocery store had a Christmas tree with paper ornaments adorning it.  Each ornament had a “wish list” from a senior citizen of what they would like for the holiday.  I looked the wishes over and decided to choose Paul.  His wants were very simple – a book and one white t-shirt.  

Tree of Senior wishes
      On the other ornaments people were hoping for things like iPads and DVD players, but Paul must be a simple man who enjoys simple pleasures.  I liked that!  And I figured, since he didn’t ask for much, I should spoil him a bit…  So instead of ONE white t-shirt, he got a whole pack.  Plus the book he wanted (which looks good by the way).  Plus a box of chocolates.  Plus 2 fancy candy canes.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS PAUL! 

Paul is a man who knows what he wants.
Another $10 donation came in (thanks!!!), bringing the total raised for Kindness from the yard sale and donations to $1565.76.  $24.26 of that remains to be used, and there is a bit that has already been used but not written about here yet!  If you would like to help this project continue, donations of any amount are appreciated.  You can PayPal them to: or contact me at . 

I hope this project inspires YOU to go out into the world and spread kindness.  Because every little bit makes the world a better place.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Cot of Kindness

I asked for a cot.  But I received KINDNESS.

My sister has glioblastoma GBM), brain cancer.  She was diagnosed in July 2018, and after brain surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy it recently recurred, crossing over to the other side of her brain.  It is now untreatable.

So, while the past 17 months have been packed with trips, long talks, literally checking things off her bucket list, telling stories, laughter, and tears – her remaining time will be spent in a hospice house, surrounded by loved ones, tenderness, and many visitors.  She moved into the hospice house on Sunday and 5 family members have set a rotating schedule to spend the night with her so that she never has to be alone (her biggest fear right now).

The hospice house has a recliner in her room that folds back, but it does not seem the most comfortable way to spend an entire night.   My nephew ordered a cot to keep in the room for whoever was staying over to use, but it wasn’t arriving until TUESDAY.

So, on Monday (which was my scheduled night to spend over), I posted this message in the “Buy Nothing Traveler’s Network” on Facebook:

“Is there anyone in the Omaha or Council Bluffs area that has a fold up cot or a blow up
twin bed that I could borrow? My sister was admitted to hospice today. We are going to
be spending the nights with her there, but there is not an extra bed for family members.
We have one cot that we've ordered that will arrive on Tuesday, but if I could borrow
another cot or blow up bed here then both my sister and I could spend the night with our
sick sister at the same time. We would be very appreciative.”

I had seen many wishes get fulfilled on that site, usually parents looking for things for their kids while they were traveling, so I hoped this ask might get answered.

No sooner had a posted than responses started.  People from around the country replied saying they were so sorry for what my family was going through and that they sent love and would keep us in their thoughts.

Before long, someone offered a zero-gravity chair!  Then someone offered a hammock!!  These were TOTAL STRANGERS and they were going out of their way to find a way to let me and my two sisters have a slumber party.

Then out of the blue, a Facebook message popped in.  It was from someone I had never met named Jessie.  She explained that she is a nurse in Omaha and that her sister had sent her a screen shot of my request for a cot.  She said, “TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED”.

And honestly, even before I replied to her I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  I explained about the cot.  She replied that she didn’t have a cot, but could we use a warm meal?  THIS WAS A COMPLETE STRANGER!

All the while she had posted a note on her personal Facebook page asking HER friends if they had a cot to lend!  (I found this out later when I friended her…)  And lo and behold, one of them did, and Jessie arranged it all.  She worked late and then took time to go pick up the cot and deliver it to me at the hospice house.

A complete stranger!!

And she said we can borrow it as long as we need it.

Jessie, you might not know this, but you delivered more than a cot.  You delivered a renewed belief that people are good at heart.  You delivered an understanding that if you are hurting and willing to ASK for help, it will come.  You delivered KINDNESS.  Thank you.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Donuts (and a toilet and more...) Of Kindness!

It’s time for another accounting report of how the money raised at the Kindness Yard Sale was spent!

Let’s start this one in CHICAGO.  My sweetheart and I were eating breakfast at an amazing donut shop called Do-Rite Donuts.  We sat at the counter facing the window and watched the world go by as we sipped coffee and ate our treats - fried chicken sandwiches with DONUTS for "buns".  Yum! I noticed that a lot of people in scrubs were coming in, then realized the hospital was right across the street.  So, I went up to a man in scrubs near the register and said that I would like to buy his lunch with proceeds from a Kindness Yard Sale.  Boy was he surprised!!  He had ordered just a coffee, but I said, “Don’t you need a SANDWICH or anything?”.  He smiled a bit, hemmed and hawed with feeling awkward about taking a free lunch from a stranger, then accepted the offer of a sandwich.  I learned his name was Ryan and he was a tech at the hospital.  He thanked us 2 or 3 times before leaving. 
Total cost:  $7.23

Donuuuuuts at Do-Rite
And since we are on the HEALTH CARE and DONUTS theme, how about this one??  My sister brought me a Krispy Kreme donut recently.  I hadn’t had one in a long time and had forgotten how delicious they are!  So, I decided to buy a few dozen and hand them out to nurses, because nurses are the hardest working people in health care!  Lucky for me the woman working at the Krispy Kreme on 72nd St in Omaha, Nebraska was super cool.  I explained what I was doing and asked what the best deal was she could give me.  She sold me 5 boxes of donuts (some glazed, some fancy) for $29.95!   She also loaned me a Sharpie so I could write messages like “Nurses Rock!” and “We Heart Nurses” on the boxes.  Then I took them to Methodist Hospital and delivered them to nurses.  It was a bit of a hard delivery – that is the hospital where my dad and sister were both treated one year ago so it brought back some sad and scary memories.  But it also felt GOOD to surprise the ER nurses, cardiac nurses, and rehab nurses with sugary treats.  They were happy to get them and surprised they were “from a stranger”, not a family member of a patient. 
Total cost:  $29.95

Donut delivery - coming up!

Get ready nurses, here they come
Sticking with the health care and treats theme…  My neighbor Stacia gave me a great idea on how to use some of the money.  She told me, “Special needs parents are some of the most tired and stressed out people I know.  May I suggest finding a speech therapist office or an OT or a child therapy office and bringing some coffees for the parents in the waiting room?  It would mean the world to them.”  She then recommended a medical office in Falls Church, Virginia called “Great Beginnings”, which fit the bill and also had a Starbucks very nearby!  I stopped at New Beginnings and before I even got off the elevator I could hear a child having a meltdown.  In the hallway I was greeted by an exhausted woman sitting on the floor talking on her cell phone and other parents and kids standing around.  I went into the office.  There were 3 families in the waiting room.  It felt a little strange going up to people I had never met and offering them coffee, but I went for it!  The first woman was very surprised at the offer and teared up a bit to think that she was going to be treated.  She ordered an Earl Grey tea.  She and her daughter were not regulars to Starbucks, so the girl didn’t know what to order.  😊  The other people in the waiting room said thanks, but no thanks.  On my way out I paused to talk with the woman who was sitting on the floor and offered her a coffee, too.  “Oh, yes!!!” she replied.  When I asked what her order was, she said, “Oh, umm, my usual drink is too expensive, so just get me a regular coffee please”.   No, no, no, I insisted.  She deserved a treat!  So, she ordered a Misto with cream.  When I got to Starbucks I ordered the tea and coffee (venti of course!) plus a Strawberry Cream Frappuccino for the little girl and 5 cake pops.  It was so fun handing the treats out!  The hallway woman was very appreciative.  The little girl was delighted with her pink drink and cake pop.  And the families who had said “no thank you” the first time were happy to get a cake pop.
Total cost:  $23.32

Starbucks run!!
From Virginia to VIETNAM.  Some of the money was used to give a Kiva loan a woman named Mrs. Luyento.  She was trying to get a loan to buy materials to build a new toilet.  Here is the piece on her from Kiva: “Mrs. Luyến is 53 years old and married. Her husband is a fisherman. She sells seafood in the local market and also dries fish to sell. Her family's income from these businesses is unstable.  She dreams of having a hygienic toilet, but her income is not enough to get one. She is asking for a loan to buy sand, cement, bricks, and pipes to build a new toilet. They would like to improve their living conditions.  This is her fifth loan cycle with Thanh Hoa MFI.  In the future, she hopes for her business to do well.”
I love giving Kiva loans (I have loaned to 14 different countries!), and this one touched my heart.  Everyone deserves a hygienic toilet!  It makes me happy to know that some of the funds from the Kindness Yard Sale are helping her to improve her life.  Our money was pooled with loans from 47 other donors and she met her goal of $1300.  She has already repaid $1.67 of what we loaned her.  When she repays it all, I will choose another recipient on Kiva to keep the loans going.  If you have never considered loaning through Kiva, please check it out.  You will be inspired and grateful for all that you have.  Link to Kiva here
Total cost:  loan of $25, and $2.50 donation to Kiva itself

Mrs. Luyento - I hope she is happy with her new toilet!
And finally, back to Chicago.   My sisters and I had a long lay-over recently in Midway Airport and we noticed a lot of people in military uniforms.  I went to the register at Einstein Brothers Bagels and greeted a woman in an Air Force uniform.  I thanked her for her service and said I would like to buy her lunch with money raised at a Kindness Yard Sale.  She was very, very happy to have lunch “on us”.  And it turns out, she was deploying and was on the way to the United Arab Emirates.  Thanks for your service, ma’am!  Wishing you a safe deployment. 
Total cost:  $7.92

There is $168.08 of the “Kindness Money” left to spend (plus a few more investments that have been made that I have not written about yet).  I know that I am going to miss this project when it is over.  It has given me joy to spread this kindness!  Thanks again for donating and shopping at the Kindness Yard Sale!  

Until the next update… 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Kindness Yard Sale Update - $221.35 Remaining!

It has been a while since I wrote an update on how the proceeds from the Kindness Yard Sale were spent, so here we go!!  More of the money got spread to MORE places, which I love!!

·         $50.31 was used at Woodgrain Pizzeria in Midway Airport (Chicago) to buy lunch for a beautiful family.  My sisters and I were on a long layover and Midway and I noticed a family (Mom, Dad, and 2 young daughters) walk by us.  The mom was wearing a scarf on her head and look as if she was going through chemo.  I stood near the cash register of the restaurant as they were debating what to order, and after they decided what types of pizza they would get, I heard the girls repeatedly say that they also wanted fruit.  But when the dad ordered, it was just 2 pizzas, no fruit or drinks.  When they got up to where I was at the register I explained I would like to buy them lunch from money raised at a Kindness Yard Sale.  The mom teared up.  “I thought you wanted fruit?” I asked the girls.  “Where is your fruit??”.  I think the parents had not been able to justify spending $5.50 each for cups of cut up fruit, but I encouraged the girls to grab some (and they did).  They also were not getting anything to DRINK (to save money I presume), but with my encouragement they added some bottled water to their order.  I was so happy to be able to help them have a tasty lunch while at the airport.  And the airport employee was so proud that I (actually – WE – everyone who donated and shopped at the Kindness Yard Sale) was treating strangers that she gave me the 10% Airport Employee Discount.  😊

·         $12.29 was spent buying groceries for an older woman at a Dollar Tree store in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (in the Outer Banks).  I was in Dollar Tree trying to find some wigs for a silly project my sisters and I were working on, and the woman I ended up treating felt bad for blocking a display with her cart and apologized.  I noticed then that instead of buying “fun things” like I was, she was stocking up on food:  spinach, pepper, beets, some chips, water, etc.  She was surprised and delighted when I paid for her order, and the cashier “blessed me” (that blessing carries on to YOU, of course, everyone who shopped and/or donated to the yard sale).

·         $39.71 was used for a Front Gate Project at our house in Arlington, Virginia.  Front Gate Projects are things I do to bring joy and community to our neighborhood.  For this one, I hand painted envelopes and cards.  On the cards, I wrote messages, “fortunes” of a sort. Each envelope had a “fortune” and a gift inside.  Then I hung them on the front gate with pretty colored ribbons.  Everyone who happened upon them was invited to take one.  I loved it, and I think the neighbors did, too.  The envelopes had candy and goodies in them, and one special envelope contained a $20 bill.  A young neighbor opened that one and came up to the door to thank us (we were not home at the time but the Ring Doorbell captured it and made me smile). 

Signs for the project (a Spanish version hung nearby)

The envelopes waiting to be discovered

·         $35 was given to a woman in Omaha, Nebraska for her to shop at a grocery store.  She posted this in the Omaha Buy Nothing group: “I'm wanting to make a big pot of soup but have limited funds for the ingredients. Anyone have 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste they can part with?? Possibly any of the other items?  As soon as I saw the post I wanted to help her.  I have tried to give away most of the yard sale proceeds without depending on "need" but this woman's wants were so little, and warm soup is such a healthy, seasonal delight.  In messaging with her, it turned out her car had been recently vandalized, so I think having a stranger reach out to assist her was even more appreciated than it would normally be.  She said, “Oh my gosh!  You are too kind!!”.

Everyone deserves a warm bowl of soup
·        $20 was given to a patient at the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska for her to buy herself a nice lunch.  We met her while we were sitting in the phlebotomy (blood draw) waiting room.  She was a patient and was there by herself (my sister is a patient there, too, and has never been to one of her appointments alone).  We all got to talking, and it turned out this woman’s name was JUDY LEE, which is also the name of our aunt!!  That fact made us fast friends with her from the get-go!  She was very talkative and fun and happy to chat with us.  She told us stories of how she and her friends used to get in trouble at school (and reminded us of the racism that African Americans had to face in this country and are still saddled with).  My sisters and I often go out for a nice lunch after treatment appointments, so we gave Judy Lee (the other Judy Lee 😊 ) $20 so she could treat herself to a delicious meal, too.  She was very, very grateful and surprised and thanked us profusely.
Some of my family and I at the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha - they have beautiful Chihuly artwork
·         $5 was given to Jessie, a homeless man asking for money on the streets of Chicago.  He was grateful.

·         $14.99 was used to purchase a tote bag for a woman in a Glioblastoma (GBM) group on Facebook.  She posted to the group asking if it people thought it would be “ok” for her to carry a tote bag about GBM if she was not the patient, but a caregiver.  Many people, including myself, replied YES, she had every right to carry a GBM bag!  I messaged her and asked if I could use some Kindness Yard Sale money to get the bag for her.  She was so happy!  When the tote bag came in the mail, she sent me this photo of her holding it.  And she told me that she had already paid the kindness forward and bought the same bag for another member of the GBM group who had expressed interest in one!  That’s what I call an instant kindness boomerang!
YES care givers/care partners can carry this bag!
·         And finally, for this report, $25 was given as a donation to The Warming Shelter in Sioux City, Iowa.  It is an organization that runs a temporary winter shelter in Iowa.  The Warming Shelter was chosen randomly after I posted this on my Facebook wall:  Let's spread some kindness, shall we?? Comment below and say which non-profit you would donate $25 to. At noon tomorrow I will RANDOMLY pick one of the charities listed in the comments and donate $25 of the proceeds from the Kindness Yard sale to it. No political or religious organizations will be considered.  Where shall we donate??  Go!!   #KindnessActivist

           Over 50 people responded with great suggestions for donations.  I hadn’t heard of many of the 
           organizations suggested, for example Bus Across Nebraska, which transports visually 
           impaired people to a skiing event, Cure For The Kids Foundation, Universal Hope Initiative, 
           and A Better Life Pet Rescue.  There are SO MANY worthwhile organizations to donate to. 
           hope that some of the people who suggested organizations will be inspired to donate on their 
           own (and YOU, I hope YOU will choose an organization that is meaningful to you and donate 

That’s it for now.  $1555.76 was raised at the Kindness Yard Sale, of which $221.35 remains to be used (there are couple of other entries of funds that were spent that I have not written about yet).   I am having such an amazing time spreading this money around.  I think I will be sad when this project is finished, but thankful to have had the chance to do it. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Corner Kindness

My partner David and I visited Chicago recently.  We were exploring the city, which is BIG, cold, and windy in this time of year.  One evening we were rushing back to our niece’s home, where we were staying, for dinner.  We were walking toward the L – Chicago’s version of a subway/metro system.  Because it was cold and we were running late, we were walking briskly.  I noticed an African American man, maybe my age, sitting on a corner right outside a Walgreen’s store, but we walked past.

We got about a block away when I told David that I felt bad for passing the man by.  He hadn’t asked us for anything, but he had a small cup in his hand to collect money, and it was obvious he was homeless.  So, we turned around and walked back to meet him.

Once again, as we approached, he did not ask for anything.  He sat in silence under the store awning on the cold, dark evening.  I greeted him, then said, “I do not have any money to give you.  But we will get you WHATEVER you want from this store.  What would you like???”. 

His eyes lit up.  He smiled at us.  “You will get ME something???”, he asked us incredulously.  “Yes!  Whatever you want.  What would you like?” I asked him with a smile.  It didn’t take long for him to smile back and say in a very clear voice, “GREEN GRAPES!!”. 

Now, I must say at this point, that I had been worried he would ask for alcohol.  It was a big store, and bottles of booze were displayed in the window.  I had a plan – if he asked for alcohol or cigarettes, I had planned to say I could get him anything except those items.  But he did not ask for those things.  GREEN GRAPES were all he wished for.  And just the idea of the grapes seemed to make him very happy!

“Is there anything else you need or want??” I asked.  “Maybe gloves??” David added.  Why yes, he did need some gloves, as it was cold out and he had none.  Before we popped into the store I said, “We will be right back, don’t go anywhere!” and he smiled a big smile at me and said, “I ain’t goin’ NO WHERE!!”.

In we went, afraid that Walgreens was not the right type of store to find green grapes.  But lo and behold, there they were, a small refrigerated section displayed some very nice grapes!  Ok, got those!  Then found some soft, warm black gloves.  Then grabbed a couple of hand warmers and a bottle of water.  Then, for good measure and a bit of protein, we got some trail mix for him.

We brought everything out in a bag and showed it to him.  He was so very, very happy.  “I don’t even know your name,” I realized.  “I can tell you who I am.  I – I am JEFFREY THEODORE…”.  He told us his last name, too, and his rank in the military.  Yes, it turned out that he, as so many other homeless people, was a veteran.  I thanked him for his service and he told us about places he had been deployed.  David asked if he was connected to the VA and if they assisted him, and he politely explained that, when you had been in the military as long as he had been, sometimes you felt a need to “disconnect” from that and not work with the VA.

We told him our names and then he asked if we could do him a favor.  He held out his hands to us.  His hands that probably hadn’t been washed in quite a while, the hands we had seen wipe his nose as it ran from the cold weather. 

And we held his hands.  We stood, the 3 of us, a small circle of hope on a dark, cold night.  And Jeffrey prayed.  The man who had nothing and wanted only grapes, prayed.  But he didn’t pray for housing or for food or for money.  HE PRAYED FOR US.  Not to convert us, but to thank the Lord that people stopped and had kindness in their hearts.  He wished for peace and kindness in the world. 

Tears streamed down my face.  It was all so beautiful.  We gave him grapes, he gave us the world all he had in the world.  Strong hands to hold.  A renewed belief in humanity.  And kindness.

For accounting purposes, we spent $20.37 of the money raised at the Kindness Yard Sale on this act.  It felt impossible to measure the happiness and peace that came as a result of that small amount.  THANK YOU to everyone who donated and shopped at the Kindness Yard Sale. 

$316.87 of the proceeds from the yard sale is squirreled away waiting for perfect opportunities to use.  And $229.43 has already been used for kindness but this tired Kindness Activist needs to find time to sit down and tell you the stories of where it went here. 

For now, just know this – it is worth stopping and talking.  It doesn’t matter if it is DARK.  It doesn’t matter if it is COLD.  What matters is that we connect as humans.  We give what we can, and we make the world a better place.  One green grape at a time. 

Best $20.37 I have spent in a long time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Kindness Yard Sale Accounting - Over $380 Remaining...

I am trying not to write these Kindness Yard Sale updates too often – I don’t want the acts to come off as showy or braggy.  But I keep reminding myself – PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW HOW THE MONEY THEY DONATED IS BEING PUT TO USE, it’s just accounting!!  So, here’s another update on how the most recent proceeds from the Kindness Yard Sale were used.

Today we did 2 kind acts with the money that I really loved.

($14)   First, this afternoon I bought 2 dozen roses at Trader Joe’s.  If you haven’t shopped at TJ’s, I will tell you a secret:  they have amazing flowers for not a lot of money!  A dozen roses is only $6.99!!  The plan for the roses started a couple of weeks ago:  I asked in my local Buy Nothing group if people had those single stem watering tubes that they no longer needed.  I used to have a bag of them but finally got rid of them last year, and NOW I needed them!  Two people gave me the tubes they had, and one amazing neighbor ORDERED BRAND NEW ONES on Amazon to be delivered right to my house!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you Mitzi, you are a KIND neighbor.  Your gift delighted me!!  Then I made 24 notes targeted to NURSES.  They said things like, “Nurses rock”, “If you want something done, ask a NURSE”, and “Nurses are the unsung heroes of healthcare”.   I punched holes in the notes, tied yellow ribbon on them, and then today tied a note to each lovely rose. 

My sweetie and I then took all 24 roses to Virginia Medical Center Hospital and gave them out one by one to nurses.  They loved it!  We ran into our first nurse when were on the elevator going up – she was returning a wheelchair after discharging someone, I think.  She was so surprised to be thanked and given a rose – she got tears in her eyes.  From there we visited a few floors and one by one thanked nurses.  Each one was very thankful and delighted.  One even gave me a big hug.  That act of kindness will be repeated with 24 more roses at a local nursing home with notes targeted to seniors.

($28.37)   Doing THAT act of kindness was so fun, I was in the mood to do another one this evening!   For the previous kind acts I have been careful to not only target them to lower income people.  I want to spread kindness to EVERYONE, not just those who traditionally ask for a “hand out”.  But I have been thinking about how fortunate I am/we are, in that we have the luxury of basically getting everything we want.  I mean, sure, maybe we can’t buy a brand new Lexus or a mansion or take a year off work to travel around the world – but we have a ROOF over our heads, can go to the grocery store and stock up on heathy food (and treats) whenever we want, and have clean clothes to wear.  Many people in the world can’t say the same is true for them… 

So tonight, I decided to look for a homeless person and ask them:  what could you get that would make tonight or tomorrow BETTER?  In my mind, I had already decided that I would not use the kindness yard sale money to buy them alcohol or cigarettes.  Not because I do not think they do not deserve those items, but because I hoped to buy them something that would last.  I was a little nervous – I didn’t want to offend anyone by asking them my question.  But we saw a woman slowly dragging a heavy garbage bag down a street in DC, and I decided to get brave and ask her.

Her first response on what would make tonight/tomorrow better was MONEY. 

“Ahhh.  Well, I can’t give you that,” I told her.  “What THING – is there some THING that would be good?”.  She only thought a few moments before saying, “White socks!!”.  She was wearing what looked like uncomfortable sandals, and white socks sounded great to me!!  I asked what style – knee high, short???  Short ones were what she wanted, so that went on my mental list.  “What else??”.  She thought…  “Mint candy!!  Those soft ones.  Red.  And white.  And maybe green.”  Oooookkkk, not sure what you mean by that…  I countered, “How about those CHOCOLATE covered mints??” and her eyes lit up!!  “Yeah, yeah, those too!!!!”.  Then she came up with a really good need:  BATTERIES FOR HER RADIO.  Turns out, one of the heavy items she had been carting around in that garbage bag was a radio.  She showed us – 4 AA batteries.  And then she did something that I later realized was really brave – she GAVE ME one of the batteries (so I would know which kind to buy).  That was worth a lot to her.  I bet it wasn’t out of juice, and she trusted me to take it.  As we headed to our car to go fulfill her shopping list, I asked, “Will you still BE here when we come back with your things???” and she countered, “Lady, I am HOMELESS.  I ain’t got no where to go!”.  Touché, my new friend, touché.

Off we ran to Wal-Mart, which was another good reminder of how lucky we have it (or how privileged we are, depending on your vocabulary 😊 ).   It turns out, at the Wal-Mart in DC, the multi-packs of WHITE SOCKS ARE LOCKED UP.  You have to get an associate to unlock the case for you, and they have to WALK WITH YOU to the check-out to buy them.  I bet you don’t have that at your fancy suburban Wal-Mart, do you? 

We ended up buying her 4 pairs of white socks, 1 extra large box of Junior Mints, one large box of soft red and white mint candy, a bottle of cold water, a bottle of cold Diet Pepsi, 8 batteries (enough to run her radio twice) and, because my sweetheart swore he heard her yell, “And chocolate cake!” as we walked away, a big ol’ piece of chocolate cake. 

She was happy when we returned and wondered what had taken us so long (another sign of our privilege – we drove to Wal-Mart to get things cheaper and make the money last longer instead of the more expensive CVS store in walking distance…).  It turns out the red and white mints were just what she was thinking of, and the chocolate cake looked very tasty.  She blessed us, thanked us, called me “Boo” even though we had already exchanged names, and smiled.  I smiled back and shook her hand.  I can’t imagine how little eye contact and physical contact homeless people must get. 

I would like to repeat that kind act with another person. 

($10)   And lastly for this report, a $10 donation was given to a woman named Raquel in Orlando, Florida who is making and mailing these beautiful signs for FREE to anyone who wants one.  I am so impressed with her message and her generosity that I was happy to use some of the proceeds to help her pay for postage or printing.  If you would like a sign or to make a donation, please visit:

That’s it for this accounting update.  There is still $384.46 remaining from the sale to use for KINDNESS, and I have other ideas in mind (and some actions I have already taken but am too sleepy to write about tonight).  Thanks again for being a part of this – spreading kindness can only be a good thing, right??